In the past couple of years, beauty salons have been among the fastest growing businesses in the UK. In particular, the nail industry is booming, as clients look for unique manicures they can show off, as well as treat themselves to a little extra pampering in their busy week.

So, with competition gearing up, is now really a good time to start up your own nail business?

The opportunity is there – but, you have to be prepared to work for it! Starting up your own nail business takes a lot of thought, research and training if you want to make a success of it.

For those thinking about it, we’ve put together a guide full of information on how to set up your own nail business from home…


How to Set up a New Nail Business in the UK

When setting up a nail business in the UK, there are a few important steps you need to take first to ensure your business is established properly and legally…

Register your nail business

If you are just doing a few nail sets for friends in your living room, you probably don’t need to register yourself as a business.

But, if you are ready to start growing into a fully profitable nail technician, you will need to keep track of your earnings and ensure you declare them for tax.

When just starting up, many nail technicians set themselves up as a sole trader. This means you are now self-employed and personally responsible for all of your businesses finances.

To do this, you need:

  • A national insurance number
  • A record kept of all your incomings and outgoings over the financial year
  • To send a self-assessed tax return every year
  • To pay income tax on your profits

However, remember that this only applies when you start making over £1,000 from self-employment. So, be sure to keep track of your businesses finances so you know when you reach this point.

The government has plenty of advice on setting yourself up as a self-employed sole trader here.

Get yourself nail or beauty insurance

In the UK, it is strongly recommended that any self-employed nail tech or business is covered by insurance.

There are a few types of insurance to consider when starting a nail business:

  • Public liability insurance
  • Employers liability insurance
  • Property insurance
  • Personal accident/sickness insurance

Public liability insurance is the most important when starting a new nail business. It covers all accidents that could occur during your treatments, whether a client experiences an allergic reaction or hurts themselves on your premises.

Employers liability insurance is a legal requirement if you have any employees – which perhaps isn’t as likely if you have a new business.

If you are investing in your own salon premises, consider property insurance to protect it against any unpredictable damage. If you are setting up your nail business at home or are working mobile, getting insurance to cover loss of earnings due to sickness or injury is also a good idea to ensure you aren’t left out of pocket.

We have a full guide on the need for beauty insurance with more information and advice.

Set Out a Business Plan

Planning is key to making a success of your new nail business!

Writing a well-thought out business plan should be a priority before you make any more decisions. It’s also particularly important if you want to try and get investment or a loan for your start up.

Try and keep your business plan concise, making it clear what your business is, how it will make money, and the steps you will take to achieve this.

It’s important to include a financial plan, too. Set yourself a realistic budget for all of your outgoings and the profit you will aim to achieve.

There are plenty of resources available to help you write your business plan – take a look at the government website for a start.

Make a Marketing Plan

When you first set up your nail business, getting the word out there about it is a huge task.

So, don’t underestimate how much time you will need to put into marketing – allow yourself a set number of hours every week to work on it.

Start by laying out a marketing plan. Decide on who your ideal client and target audience are, then get thinking about ways to reach them. Some of these ways might require a budget, so factor this into your business plan.

Don’t forget about the power of social media, either. Set up a Facebook account for your business and make sure it has all your essential information – how to find you, your opening hours, contact details etc.

The great thing about nail businesses is that they are very visual by nature. So, leveraging Instagram to your advantage can help out, too. Do your best to create and share content as frequently as possible, creating a portfolio of your work. Take a look at Nails by Annabel to see how this nail tech turned herself into a whole brand.

We have some fantastic salon marketing advice over on our blog – go and check it out for more help!

What Qualifications Do You Need to Start a Nail Business?

In the UK, there is no specific qualification you need to take to be able to start a nail business. However, you will need to get insurance and many providers do require proof of qualifications in order to cover you.

So, while you could in theory be a self-taught nail technician, it is not recommended. A proper nail course will cover all the essential elements you will need to know, from properly applying nail enhancements to a high standard, to hygiene, health and safety and client care.

The best qualifications to start with are a level 2 or 3 certificate in nail technology or nail treatments. You can study for this in a college, which often will have entry requirements before you can enrol, such as a number of GCSEs or previous beauty qualifications.

How long does it take to become a certified nail technician?

It can take up to a year to complete a level 2 certificate in nail technology. You can find both full-time and part-time courses that best suit your needs.

You might find courses that are shorter, but they may not be in-depth enough to satisfy insurers. Always check the course syllabus to make sure you are paying for a comprehensive nail course.

Once you have your initial nail qualification, you might well be ready to start with your business. However, remember that learning and training never really comes to an end as a nail technician! It’s important to continue refining your skills and learning new techniques to ensure your business stays on top of its game.

Will My Nail Business Be Profitable?

In 2019, it was reported that 60% of new businesses go bust within 3 years – but, that doesn’t have to be the fate of your nail start-up!

Nail salon competition is fierce, but so long as you have a solid plan, keep control over your finances and do your market research, you will be in the best place possible to make a profit.

From the outset, do what you can to differentiate yourself from other nail businesses in the area. Maybe you could be the first to offer vegan nail services or your focus is on eco-friendly beauty. This will really help you stand out and give you a good marketing hook.

When first starting out, you will have to accept the fact that your nail business won’t be hugely profitable straight away. To build up a client base, your prices will need to be kept lower to attract some interest. Many new nail businesses use an introductory offer to get off the ground.

There are other ways you can make a profit out of your nail business, too. Retailing nail products to your clients can add a new stream, especially if you have products to help them maintain their manicure at home.

As you gain more experience, you could even look into offering training services to new nail technicians. Or, expanding your horizons, you could hire yourself out for parties, fashion events or even cruise ships!

Find out how bridal stylist Hannah Taylor and beauty expert Cheryl Taylor took the step into education in our Ask the Expert series.

How Much Should You Charge For Your Nail Services?

Following on from asking whether your nail business will be profitable, the next step is to ensure you are charging the right amount for your services.

It’s a good idea to research your other nail businesses in your area to see how much they charge for their services, but it’s important that you don’t meet them just because you think that you should.

Prices for nail services vary depending on a number of factors. Gel and acrylic nails can cost anywhere from £15 to £50 based on the location of the salon, experience of the nail technician and quality of products used.

First of all, you need to know how much profit you have to make to support not only your business, but yourself. When working out the cost of a single treatment, be sure to factor in everything over the financial year, such as:

  • Fixed costs, such as any rent, utility bills, insurance, website fees etc
  • One-off purchases such as new nail brushes, e-files or towels
  • Regular supplies such as the nail polishes, monomer or cuticle oil you use for the treatment
  • Disposable supplies that need frequent replenishment, such as cotton wool and face masks
  • Miscellaneous items such as tea and coffee, magazines and loyalty cards
  • Your time – both that you spend on the treatment, and travelling to and from the appointment if you are a mobile nail tech

Once you know the cost of each treatment, factor in the cost of National Insurance contributions and taxes or any loan repayments. Then, figure out how much profit you would need to make a living before finalising a price that works for you.

Salon, Mobile or Nails From Home – Which is Best?

There is one more big decision to make when thinking about starting up your own nail business – where will you be based?

There are a few main options to consider; setting yourself up in a salon, becoming a mobile nail technician or offering nail services from home.

Take a look at some of the main pros and cons here…

Pros Cons
Running a nail business from home Lowest amount of overheads and flexible No footfall and you may need to get permission from your home insurer or landlord
Mobile nail technician More convenient for clients The amount of travel reduces the number of clients you can see
Renting a room in a salon You have access to the salon’s existing client base You will have to pay rent or commission to the salon owner
Setting up your own salon The best way to get your name out onto the highstreet High number of overheads including rent, business rates and tax

When first starting up your nail business, it’s usually best to wait until you are more established before investing a large amount of money in your own salon. Try starting out with one of the other models first.

We have a whole blog on Mobile Beautician vs Beauty Salon: Which Is Best?

What Does a Beginner Nail Tech Need?

Once you have everything set up for your nail business, it’s time to get shopping!

There is going to be a long list of items you are going to need as a beginner nail tech opening up business for the first time.

Take a look at our nail tech supply list to get going…






Looking for more professional nail supplies to start up your own nail business? Find them online today with Salons Direct!

Keep reading on the Salons Direct blog for more nail salon advice